HOUSTON – Following the patterns of the four Great Awakenings the world has previously experienced, Texas Baptists Theologian-in-Residence Jim Denison said what is truly needed to ignite the same flame in Texas is simply prayer.
Denison presented a history lesson on how the previous awakenings began and the end result in a Monday morning workshop to open the 2009 Annual Meeting of Texas Baptists. Titled “Sharing Jesus,” the former pastor of Dallas’ Park Cities Baptist Church and current president of the Center for Informed Faith said the equation for starting radical revival in Texas is easy and biblical.
Central to his session was the passage in Second Chronicles 7:13-14: “If my people who are called by my name will humble themselves and pray and seek my face and turn from their wicked ways, then will I hear from heaven and will forgive their sin and will heal their land.”
“Awakening comes when we admit we need awakening. It starts with humility and realizing we need God to move among us,” said Denison, who also serves as Theologian in Residence for the BGCT. “When it happens, evangelism and missions are inevitable results.”
Denison said a fifth Great Awakening is taking place, though primarily overseas at the present. It started in South Korea, which at one time had almost no believers. Today, the nation is one-third born-again Christians, and six of the 10 largest evangelical churches in the world are in Korea.
From there, he said the awakening spread to Australia and Cuba – where the last 10 years has seen 1 million new Christians – and then to South America. Currently, the nation with the most Christians is China, and 82,000 people are converting to Christianity every day worldwide.
Yet in America, Denison said, the number of people who claim to have no religion has doubled over the last 20 years. What’s the connection?
“In our culture, God is often a hobby, and Christianity can be a transactional relationship … what are we going to get out of it,” he said. “If awakening came to the churches of Texas, our desire to share the gospel would be an unavoidable continuance.”
Denison said the “spiritual malaise” that has overtaken the western world can only be overcome with prayer, and like the previous awakenings, that can begin with a small group of believers.
“What if Texas Baptists started a prayer movement for awakening to come to their church and the state?” he asked. “An awakening transforms a culture. God wants to redeem what we’re going through as a state and a nation so He can bring about awakening. God does something in response to our prayers.”
Denison closed with a story about famed Baptist preacher S.M. Lockridge, who spoke of spending time on the farm with his grandparents. After a busy day of work in the barn and the house, the young boy Lockridge retreated to his bed for rest. But his grandfather shared a lesson that resounds to the church today: “What you do around the house is chores. What you do in the fields is work.”
By Teresa Young, Wayland Baptist University